Writing in the journal Clinical Endocrinology, scientists from the Netherlands, Austria, and the U.S. report that low blood levels of the sunshine vitamin are associated with increased risk of all-cause mortality, and mortality from heart disease, in the elderly.
The research follows hot on the heels of similar findings published in Nutrition Research and in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The new study used data from 614 people participating in the Hoorn Study, a prospective population-based study with men and women with an average age of 69.8. Blood levels of 25(OH)D were measured at the start of the study. After an average of six years of follow-up, 51 deaths had been documented, 20 of which were due to cardiovascular health.
People with the lowest average vitamin D levels were found to be at a 124 and 378 percent increased risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality, respectively.
Commenting on the potential mechanism, the researchers note:
"Apart from the maintenance of muscular and skeletal health, vitamin D may also protect against cancer, infections, autoimmune and vascular diseases, suggesting that vitamin D deficiency might contribute to a reduced life expectancy."
Adults with lower blood levels of vitamin D may also be more likely to die from heart disease or stroke. Scientists in Finland compared blood levels of vitamin D, and deaths from heart disease or stroke over time in more than 6,000 people. Those with the lowest vitamin D levels had a 25 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease or stroke.
In addition, in a study of 166 women undergoing treatment for breast cancer, nearly 70 percent had low levels of vitamin D in their blood, according to a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's Breast Cancer Symposium. The analysis showed women with late-stage disease and non-Caucasian women had even lower levels.
Said Luke Peppone, Ph.D., research assistant professor of Radiation Oncology, at Rochester's James P. Wilmot Cancer Center:
"Vitamin D is essential to maintaining bone health and women with breast cancer have accelerated bone loss due to the nature of hormone therapy and chemotherapy. It's important for women and their doctors to work together to boost their vitamin D intake."